The 2016 guessing game has officially gotten out of control

Jon Terbush
The Week
Jeb Bush's name has been floated for half a decade as a possible presidential candidate.

A little over a year ago, President Obama was re-elected, ending the 2012 election cycle and signaling, at least to political prognosticators, the start of the 2016 race.

Though we're still 1,090 days away from the next presidential election, there have already been endless reports breathlessly speculating about who might run. In the latest example, Politico's Ben White reported Wednesday that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) was Wall Street's new candidate du jour. There is "growing chatter in elite New York financial circles" that Bush will run, White wrote, "especially if it appears at any point that [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie is not drawing big national appeal beyond the northeast."

Several top GOP sources on Wall Street and in Washington said this week that Bush has moved from almost certainly staying out of the 2016 race to a "30 percent chance" of getting in. Several sources mentioned the precise 30 percent odds as up from closer to zero just a few months ago. [Politico]

Got that? An unspecified number of Republicans think a famous former governor whose name has been floated for half a decade as a possible presidential candidate has less than a thirty percent chance of actually joining a horse race three years from now, and then only if Christie doesn't seem to be winning support outside his region.

Apparently, all it takes to be a presidential contender at this point is to be 1) Connected to politics, and 2) Alive.

In addition to Christie and Bush, the long list of those linked to potential White House bids on the GOP side includes Reps. Peter King (N.Y.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.); Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio); and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), John Kasich (Ohio), Bobby Jindal (La.), and Nikki Haley (S.C.). Then there's perennial tease and unparalleled troll Donald Trump, who won himself some media space earlier this year by again pretending he was interested in running for president.

At least Florida pastor Terry Jones — best known for attempting to burn Qurans — has filed with the FEC to run for president, meaning he is technically more of an official candidate right now than any of the above.

The madness of handicapping the 2016 election has gotten so out of hand there are even stories pondering whom Christie might tap as his running mate. And a much-hyped article in The New Republic earlier this week posited that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could upend the Democratic primary by challenging Hillary Clinton — even though Warren signed a joint letter urging Democrats to rally behind a Clinton candidacy.

This kind of tea leaf-reading about potential campaigns tends to ignore recent history.

Last time around, there was endless chatter that Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Sen. John Thune (S.D.), Christie, and, yes, Trump, would run. None of them did. Christie jokingly threatened to commit suicide to make everyone shut up about it; Huckabee gave himself a ratings bonanza by announcing he would make a decision on his Fox News show.

Will Bush run in 2016? Maybe. He's certainly more viable on paper than a lot of the other candidates.

But reading too deeply into the fact that a handful of people think another person is thinking about maybe weighing the possibility of considering running for president in the future is, at this point, largely immaterial.

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